Many of life’s activities involve using our legs in a reciprocal pattern. Find out why training in half kneeling position can help. Exercise instruction and demonstration included in a video link. Learn the four steps to a successful fitness program and how to correctly use the Concept 2 rowing ergometer.
Treadmills are found in virtually every gym. Read the six treadmill facts you need to know. Meet a Fenton Fitness member who learned how to manage her back pain, and read about the seven best TRX exercises. Do you have limited time to exercise? Be more efficient with HIIT.
Renegade Rows and SHELC
When designing programs for rehabilitation patients and fitness clients, I often pair up exercises. This practice is commonly called super-setting and it has multiple benefits:
Train efficiently—You get much more work done during your training time.
Abolish performance deficits—Most physical therapy and fitness clients need to work on glaring right vs. left movement asymmetries, postural restrictions, and stability limitations.
Lose weight—Fat loss is a primary goal of most fitness clients. Pairing exercises ramps up exercise intensity and creates the hormonal response that improves body composition.
Move better—Training neurologically related movement patterns improves motor control.
Renegade Row-SHELC Combo
The renegade row starts in the top position of a push up. Rubber hex dumbbells work the best for this exercise since they do not move on the floor. Place the dumbbells on the floor and position the hands on top of the dumbbells. Try to align the dumbbells directly under the armpits. Maintain a strong grip on the dumbbell handle during the exercise. Spread the feet at least shoulder width. Tighten the shoulder blades down the back and create total body tension. Without allowing the torso to turn, row one dumbbell up so the thumb approaches the armpit. Lower the dumbbell in a controlled manner and repeat with the other arm. Perform five repetitions on each arm.
Supine Hip Extension Leg Curls
Set the TRX straps so the bottom of the strap is at the mid-calf level of your leg. Lay supine and place the heels in the foot straps of the TRX. The feet should be directly under the overhead attachment point of the TRX. Place the arms on the floor at a 45 degree angle. Brace the abdominal muscles and keep the head down. Push the arms against the floor for stability. Lift the hips off the floor and keep them up for the duration of the set. Bend the knees so that the feet travel toward the body. Keep the hips up and extend the knees in a controlled manner. Perform ten to fifteen repetitions. Common mistakes are turning the feet outward and allowing the hips to fall toward the floor as the knees flex and extend.
The anti-flexion and anti-rotation core stabilization demand created by this pair of exercises produces some interesting next day abdominal muscle soreness. The ability to link the hips to the shoulder and produce movement is what everyone tries to accomplish with functional training. Move through three sets of the Renegade Row – SHELC combo and let me know how it goes.
View video of Mike performing these exercises here: https://youtu.be/2_fT0zShTSo
-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
For injury prevention, athletic performance, and general health, a regular program of lower extremity power training is beneficial. Traditional exercises that improve explosive leg power—jumps, hops, bounds, and skips—are too challenging for many fitness clients. Limited leg strength, poor balance, joint problems, and a high body mass index all make traditional plyometric training problematic. The assistance of a suspension trainer creates an environment that permits everyone to succeed in exercises that improve leg power.
Older fitness clients may not possess the balance to perform traditional plyometric power production exercises. The stability assist from the TRX is the balance “training wheels” necessary for beneficial jump, split jump, jump squat, and lunge exercises. The suspension trainer unloads an exercise and allows the client the opportunity to practice explosive movements with less joint stress. TRX power exercises require no set up time, and a full complement of explosive enhancing drills can be completed in five minutes.
Older fitness clients are in special need of training to improve leg power. Between the ages of 65 and 89 lower limb power (the ability to move the legs explosively) declines at a rate of 3.5% per year. Strength declines at a slower 1-2% per year rate in this same group. Power is the ability to create force in a short period of time and is different than raw strength. Lower extremity power capacity keeps us safe. It is the component of fitness that enables you to react and save yourself from a fall or sudden disturbance in balance. As leg power falters, injuries increase. As injuries increase, pain, mobility and independent living decreases.
Exercise is like medicine, administer the correct prescription at the proper dose and the patient thrives. The “exercise medicine” that is missing in many training programs is a consistent dose of power training. Watch the video for some examples of simple power production exercises you can add to your program.
-Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
To view a video demonstration of multiple exercises completed with TRX, click on the link below:
At one time, we all had a very stable and pain-free squat pattern. As toddlers, we could transfer up off the floor through a deep and complete squat. Deconditioning, prolonged sitting, and injuries take their toll until we lose so much movement that many of us are unable to properly descend into a chair. Regaining a functional squat pattern reduces the incidence of injury, enhances functional mobility, and maintains lifelong independence. One of the most effective squat restoration drills is the suspension overhead squat.
The suspension overhead squat is like riding a bike with training wheels. The resistance provided by the suspension trainer acts as an assist to make the squat easier to perform. With consistent practice you reconnect with the neural signals that create an efficient and pain-free squat movement.
Suspension Overhead Squat Performance
Anchor the suspension trainer at least nine feet up on a wall. Face the anchor point and hold the handles overhead. The palms face inward and the shoulder blades are pulled down the back-similar to the football official signaling touchdown. Position the heels at least shoulder width apart. A mirror that provides a side profile can be helpful for visual feedback on your performance. Push the hips back and lower into the squat. Keep the chest proud and the spine tall as you descend. Drive through the hips and rise back up to the starting position. Perform two sets of ten repetitions.
Most people need to work on squat stability first and then attempt greater depth. Initially, I have clients progress through a five second isometric contraction at the bottom of the squat. As the pattern improves, slowly work into greater squat depth.
Valgus collapse and the butt wink are the two most common flaws. During valgus collapse the knees buckle inward instead of staying lined up with the feet. A butt wink involves the pelvis tucking under at the bottom of the squat. If you are unable to monitor and correct these problems, you need to get some coaching.
To watch video demonstration of the suspension overhead squat, click on the link below:
-Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
All of our muscles work as a team to create movement. Postural stress, injuries, and poor training practices can cause some of our muscles to lose communication with the rest of the team. One of the more common problems we find in physical therapy and performance training is fondly termed “gluteal amnesia,” or an inability to use the gluteal (butt) muscles properly. In a strong, well-functioning body, the gluteal and hamstring muscles fire in a synchronous fashion to create motion. Strong, well-developed hamstrings and gluteals are the hallmark of an athletic body. Just look at any sprinter, speed skater, or high jumper. An extremely effective exercise to strengthen and reinforce the connection between these muscle groups is the suspension Supine Hip Extension Leg Curl (SHELC).
Why You Should SHELC
Unlike other gluteal and hamstring exercises, such as the good morning, barbell deadlift, and cable pull through, the SHELC does not put any shear stress or compression forces through the lumbar spine. The SHELC forces you to use the gluteals and hamstrings as a team. Strong and coordinated gluteal and hamstring muscles safeguard the knees and lower back. The SHELC trains hip hyperextension– a key component of efficient acceleration. The best athletes are the ones that get up to top speed the fastest.
Set the TRX straps so the bottom of the strap is at the mid-calf level of your leg. Lay supine and place the heels in the foot straps of the TRX. The feet should be directly under the overhead attachment point of the TRX. Place the arms on the floor at a 45 degree angle. Brace the abdominal muscles and keep the head down. Push the arms against the floor for stability. Lift the hips off the floor and keep them up for the duration of the set. Bend the knees so that the feet travel toward the body. Keep the hips up and extend the knees in a controlled manner. Perform ten to fifteen repetitions. Common mistakes are turning the feet outward and allowing the hips to fall to the floor between repetitions.
The SHELC can be made more challenging by moving the entire body out from under the suspension point or by adding a weight across the front of the body. Another challenging progression is the Single Leg SHELC.
To view video demonstration of the SHELC, click on the link below:
-Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Your muscles work as a team to carry you through the day. They never function alone so training them with isolation exercises will produce less than optimal results. The muscles over the front of the body are linked together through interwoven layers of fascia to form what Thomas Myers, in his book Anatomy Trains, calls the “superficial front line.” The shoulder girdle is slung onto the body in a basket weave pattern of muscles. One of the best exercises to activate this team of muscles is the Atomic Push Up.
The guys and gals at TRX named this exercise because of the metabolic response it produces. Although the TRX company popularized the Atomic Push Up, you can use any type of suspension trainer that has foot straps. This exercise helps build a better connection between your shoulders and hips. It will strengthen the push pattern and activate the frequently neglected hip flexors. The Atomic Push Up requires core control and the active participation of your legs. The Atomic Push Up is not a bodybuilding type exercise that will “sculpt your outer pectorals,” but it will help you move better.
Attach the suspension trainer overhead with the foot straps eight inches off the floor. Sit on the floor and place the feet in the straps. Roll over and assume a push up position with the feet suspended off the floor in the straps. The top of the suspension trainer should be directly over your feet. Descend toward the floor and as you push back up pull the knees up toward your chest. Use a steady cadence of lower down–push up–knees in–knees out. Beginners should aim for sets of five repetitions. Stop the set before movement quality deteriorates. Common faults are sagging in the middle, lack of depth during the push up, and poor head position. For men, twenty repetitions of Atomic Push Ups is a worthy fitness goal. For women, eight is great.
You generally do not see Atomic Push Ups performed in commercial gyms because suspension trainers are rare and this exercise is difficult. Beginners may wish to place a mat under the torso and head in case of a sudden face plant. You can use a pair of parallelettes if you find weight bearing on your hands is difficult. Moving the body forward so the suspension strap is pulling you backward makes the exercise more challenging.
To view video demonstration of the Atomic Push Up, click on the link below:
-Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
The exercises that produce the greatest long term pay off are the activities that slow the aging process and prevent injury. I believe these activities should be part of all training programs. One of my favorite exercises is the Suspension Push Up.
Dr. Janda has told us that certain muscles tend to become weaker earlier in the aging process. They are the deltoids, triceps, rhomboids, abdominal, and gluteal muscles. The suspension push up activates all of these muscles. If you are looking to stay strong and fight off the effects of aging, you cannot get much better than a suspension push up. Paired up with a suspension row, you have a superior push-pull upper body strengthening and core stability program that is hard to beat.
A common cause of chronic shoulder pain is poor glenohumeral joint stability. The humeral head (golf ball) does not stay properly centered against the glenoid (golf tee). Muscle imbalances, prior injuries, and inappropriate training can all create an environment where the humeral head moves too far upward and forward. Excessive humeral head movement is the cause of acromioclavicular joint degeneration, or tears in the rotator cuff tendons and damage to the articular surfaces and support cartilage of the shoulder. Suspension Push Ups can retrain glenohumeral joint stability.
Most pressing-type strengthening exercises do little to enhance glenohumeral stability and many exercises such as wide grip bench pressing and dumbbell flys enhance instability. Performing the push up with rings or suspension loops produces an outward pull on the shoulders as the arms move through a horizontal push. The pectoral muscles, internal rotators, latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, and deltoids must work as a team to prevent the rings from moving apart. The unstable nature of the rings or loops helps to restore the dynamic isometric control of the humeral head on the glenoid. An added bonus is the anti-extension, core stability demand. Your arms can only push what your spine can hold up.
The position of the suspension rings or loops is important. They must hang at least four feet apart. This assures you will be working against a horizontal abduction force (outward pull) during the exercise. A single strap TRX is not appropriate for this exercise. The rings or loops should hang about eight inches from the floor. Get into a push up position and set your feet at hip width. Maintain a good strong grip on the rings or loops –this helps recruit better glenohumeral stability. Keep the body straight in one long line from the ears to the ankles. Tighten the gluteal muscles and pull the shoulder blades down the back. Lower slowly by pulling the elbows in toward the sides of the body. Hold briefly at the bottom of the push up, and then push back up to the starting position. Maintain a steady inward pressure on the rings or loops at all times. Perform two or three sets of six to ten repetitions.
Common mistakes during suspension push ups are flaring the elbows, holding the hips too high or losing core stability, and performing a circus seal push up. Make sure you move through a full range of motion.
You can make this exercise more challenging by elevating your feet on a box, adding resistance from a weight vest, or by slowing the tempo of performance.
To view video demonstration of the Suspension Push Up, click on the link below:
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
I have received several requests for more recommendations on postural restoration exercises. This is the second of three articles. This pair of exercises is a good choice for overhead athletes such as tennis and volleyball players. Watch for number three next week.
Most of us drive, commute, do computer work, watch television, and often sleep in the same position. We become stuck in a forward flexed thoracic spine posture that rotates the shoulder blades downward and pushes the head forward. Long-term postural flaws will limit your strength, functional mobility, and are the precursor to many of the pain problems we treat in physical therapy. Your fitness program should eliminate, not feed, these postural problems. I have some postural restoration training suggestions that nearly anyone can implement into his/her fitness program.
Many strength coaches and physical therapists have found that performing a mobility exercise followed by an activation (strengthening) exercise produces more expedient changes in postural flaws. Your goal is to increase the restricted movement pattern and then strengthen through the newly acquired range of motion.
TRX “Stoney Stretch” and Belly On Ball “Y”s
Stand facing away from the TRX strap. Place the handles at eye level on either side of your head. Step forward with the right leg and simultaneously reach the hands up in a letter Y shape. The TRX will provide an effective mobilizing stretch to the shoulders and upper thoracic spine. Do not hold the stretch for more than three seconds. Step back and then repeat with the left leg. How far forward you step depends on your shoulder and upper thoracic spine mobility. As your ability to move improves, the step can be progressed to a full forward lunge. Perform five repetitions with each leg and then move to the Belly on Ball Y exercise.
Position yourself face down over the top of a physioball. You need a fairly firm ball that does not flatten out when placed under load. Keep your spine stable and the chest off the ball. Lengthen the neck and thoracic spine. They should not move at all during the exercise. Keep the gluteal muscles tight and legs extended. Start with the arms in front of the shoulders on either side of the ball. The shoulders should be externally rotated (keep a thumbs-up position of the hands). Raise the arms overhead like a football official signaling touchdown. This will create a letter “Y” shape with your torso and arms. Hold the arms overhead for three counts and then lower back down in a controlled fashion. Repeat for 10-12 repetitions.
Common mistakes include using a ball that is too small or too soft, swinging the arms up and down instead of in a controlled fashion, failing to hold the arms overhead for three counts, and/or extending the cervical spine (looking up) instead of maintaining a lengthened position through the spine. You can make the exercise more challenging by adding dumbbells.
Click on the link below for a video demonstration of the above exercises:
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
Improve horizontal pulling strength. Enhance stability in the shoulders.
Strengthen the Deltoids, Traps, Rhomboids, Teres, Minor, and Bicep muscles. Improve neurological control that stabilizes the shoulder joint.
Grab a pair of TRX handles. Firmly grip the handles and lean back. Keep a straight line from your ear, shoulder, hips, knee and ankle.
Pull your hands toward your ears/face. As you pull, turn your wrist so that you finish with the back of your knuckles to your ears. You should finish with your elbows high, squeezing your shoulders together at the top.
Taking too steep of an angle; not rotating the wrist; lacking control; allowing hips to drop.
-Jeff Tirrell, B.S., CSCS